SolGen: Lack of quorum in anti-TRAIN petition ‘lame’ argument

MANILA -- The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on Thursday slammed the petition filed by militant lawmakers before the Supreme Court (SC) seeking to halt the implementation of Republic Act 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act.

Lack of quorum of Congress is that all you have to nullify the TRAIN Law? Thank you, your Honors, for making my job easier, Solicitor General Jose Calida said in a post on his Twitter account, noting that such argument was a flimsy excuse.

In a 34-page petition filed before the SC Thursday, Makabayan bloc Reps. Antonio Tinio (ACT Teachers), Carlos Isagani Zarate (Bayan Muna) and Ariel Casilao (Anakpawis) said the law should be declared unconstitutional for having been ratified by the House of Representatives and signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte which was in violation of the 1987 Constitution and the rules of the House.

The petitioners said the tax reform law was invalid since there was no quorum when the House of Representatives ratified the joint bicameral conference report on the measure last December 13, and there was no voting involved.

The violations (lack of quorum) are clearly proven by the official video recording of the December 13, 2017 session as live-streamed on that date and posted afterwards in the official website of the House of Representatives, they added.

On top of the lack of quorum, the petitioners also said that second equally important requirement - the majority vote - was also not met.

Named as respondents in the petition are President Duterte, House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Farinas and Deputy Majority Leader Arthur Defensor Jr.

The petitioners also urged the high court to issue a temporary restraining order on the law, which took effect on January 1, pending adjudication of the case.

They also disputed the government's claim that the tax reform law, which slashed personal income tax rates while raising additional revenues for infrastructure and social services, would be beneficial to the public.

They said the new excise taxes on petroleum products and sugar-sweetened beverages, and its broader value added tax would hit the poor and low-income earners.

TRAIN, which was signed into law by President Duterte last December 19, was the first package of the government's proposed Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP), seen to generate additional revenue to fund the country's investment requirements.

It exempts those with an annual income of PHP250,000 and below from personal income tax and imposes excise taxes on petroleum products, automobiles, and sugar-sweetened beverages in order to offset revenue losses from lowering personal income taxes.

Due to the CTRP, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) earlier said the country's real gross domestic product (GDP) would be higher by 0.5 to 1.1 percent by year 2022.

Source: Philippine News Agency